Boy, do I envy my cats’ ability to fall asleep any place, any time.
I’ve lived with chronic physical pain for over a decade and there are nights when it is hard to go to sleep-when it is impossible to ignore the pain. But I have never thought of myself as having trouble sleeping.
When grieving a child, you are oh, so very tired. Yet often sleep eludes you.
“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
Lying in bed, in the dark, my mind kicks in to hyper-drive. With no external stimulation to provide distraction, images come unbidden and unwelcome to taunt me. I work hard to guide the train of thought to a less tortuous route.
So I thought I would share some ways that help me make it through the long nights:
- Only lie down when you are tired enough to expect that you can fall asleep. I am physically active each day so that at least my body is ready for rest.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages after 12 noon and don’t eat heavy foods past mid-afternoon.
- Be selective about what you listen to, watch or read in the hours leading up to bedtime. I try to feed my mind images and information that will help me focus on more positive themes when I close my eyes.
- Keep a pad and pencil next to the bed to jot down last minute reminders of things you might need to remember tomorrow. I try to think ahead and have a rough plan of action for the next day so that my mind can rest.
- Make sure you are physically comfortable–room temperature and bed clothes appropriate to the season, pajamas in soft fabrics, well-hydrated, take analgesics as needed for physical pain, etc.
- Make whatever concessions are needed to hold anxiety at bay. I have a nightlight in my bathroom that casts a soft glow into my bedroom. I keep my cell phone and home phone next to me because once you get “that call” you feel like you must be instantly accessible to loved ones. My cat sleeps with me–purring is a great comforter.
- When I turn out the light and turn over, I purposely focus my mind’s attention and heart’s affection on trusting God to help me drift off to sleep.
“I can lie down and go to sleep, and I will wake up again, because the Lord ·gives me strength [sustains/upholds me].”
Psalm 3:5 EXB
- If you wake up in the middle of the night, try reciting Scripture or humming hymns and try to lull yourself back to sleep. I will sometimes do mental work like planning a project or trying to recall a childhood memory–anything that might make me tired.
- If you can’t go back to sleep in 30 minutes or so, get up and get on with the new day–even if it is only hours old. There’s no use lying in bed and tossing and turning. While I may be exhausted for that day, I’m almost certain to be able to sleep better the next night.
Sleep is important.
If you find that you are unable to get more than a few hours sleep for longer than two weeks–talk to your doctor. There is NO SHAME in asking for help. And there are many products available that are non-habit forming and suitable for short-term use.
It is impossible to do the work grief requires if you are worn out from lack of sleep in addition to carrying the pain of losing your child.
“We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning.”
Henry Ward Beecher
If we can help ourselves get the rest we need, we are better able to face the challenge of each new day.